Residents in Southfield and the metro Detroit area have organized to oppose a new drilling application to drill for oil in this Michigan city of over 70,000 people. “Stop the Drilling in Southfield” plans a protest at the drilling site Sunday, January 17 at 9 am. Word of Faith, a “mega church,” owns the property and has leased out its minerals to Jordan Development. The site is at Nine Mile and Evergreen, a densely populated area, only 2 miles from Providence Hospital.
Residents speak out on CBS/WWJ (see video): http://cbsloc.al/1Q2gNf2?anvt=111
THE HARMS OF ACIDIZING
Though the company and church claim there will be no fracking, they propose to vertically acidize in the Niagaran formation, which has been horizontally fracked with multiple horizontal bores in Montmorency County (See the Hubbell 2-22 HD1 and Hubbell 2-22 HD2 well). There is no guarantee that this proposed well wouldn’t be used with multiple wellheads and eventually with horizontal well bores.
Methane would be flared (burned) into the atmosphere. This, too, will pollute the air and harm residents.
COMMENTS TO DEQ NEEDED BY JANUARY 18
We join them in urging Michiganders to write to the DEQ by January 18, 2016 to deny the permit and demand a public hearing. The DEQ says 30 people have written in opposition. The application is A150095. Download the application here: Word of Faith 16-27 Application-2
Write to: DEQemail@example.com
Many groups and residents are sending in comments to the DEQ in opposition:
One day in August I drove to Crawford County to take a look at Marathon Oil’s recent activities along King Road in Beaver Creek Township, which is near Grayling.
State Beaver Creek 1-23 HD1, a horizontal frack well in the state forest, has been producing on a pad there, tapping the nearly-two-mile-deep Utica-Collingwood shale for some time.
State Beaver Creek 1-23 HD1, on August 15. Photo: Ellis Boal
In late July Marathon applied for a second horizontal frack well on the same pad, named State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1, which would explore into the Detroit River formation, about a mile shallower than the Utica-Collingwood.
This is the first high-volume frack well to explore in this formation in Michigan.
Not much was happening that day on the pad. But previously I had noticed an unusual feature on the plat accompanying the application for the new well, a half-mile away. It was labeled “State Beaver Creek D4-11″. The nomenclature is not typical for Michigan wells and no operator name was given. I thought it might be a processing facility of some kind.
D4-11, still a forest on August 15. Photo: Ellis Boal. Click for close-up.
I didn’t see a direct two-track through the forest between the wellpad and D4-11, so I drove around and found an old one leading to the spot where it was supposed to be. There was nothing but trees, and a few scattered stakes and flags. No permit was posted. Nothing indicated that something big was about to happen.
A week later, in a quick turnaround time DEQ issued the permit for State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1.
In September I inquired of DEQ what was going on with D4-11. On September 18 DEQ tech Kelley Nelson wrote that it is a well, not a processing facility. It was regulated under part 625 of the Michigan environmental law. Therefore, she said, it was a totally confidential operation. I asked if that meant the permit number, and even the fact whether the well was permitted, were unavailable. She answered:
You are correct. Nothing is available for any part 625 test well. It is confidential for 10 years.
Well, “nothing” was not really the whole truth. Part 625 regulations required Marathon to send the first page of its application to Beaver Creek Township, “post the permit in a conspicuous place” at the surface location until drilling is completed, and post a “conspicuous” sign near the wellhead showing the permit number.
D4-11, a/k/a the “science well,” under construction on August 26. Photo: Gary Cooley.
Obtained publicly from the township, the first page of the application tells us: Marathon posted a conformance bond of $33,000, the well is vertical, sour gas is expected, the intended total depth is 4700 feet, and the target formation is the Amherstburg. This is a fossil-bearing non-shale formation in the Detroit River group, the same formation being explored by State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1. Vertically, D4-11 is just 300 feet deeper.
Marathon refers to D4-11 informally as a “science well.”
I visited again on September 20. This time there was a nearly-200-foot drill rig there, operating with a loud hum. The rig name, Ensign 161, was prominent on the side.
I was wearing my letsbanfracking t-shirt. Three workers came out. I identified myself and we chatted. They were from out of state. I asked who was the supervisor. They didn’t know, they said.
Later toward midnight I drove by again, this time staying on King Road. Through 100+ yards of trees I could hear the hum. Over the tree line I could see lights on the rig.
D4-11, operating on September 22. Photo: Gary Cooley
Two days later Gary Cooley, who has a home a little over a mile from D4-11, visited and took pictures of the rig in operation.
On September 22, I sent DEQ a formal FOIA request asking for all its documents on the facility. DEQ denied it on October 1, citing section 8 and section 9 of part 625.
But section 9 only says that the application and permit are “confidential in the same manner as provided for logs and reports on these wells.” Section 8 says “Logs on brine and test wells shall be held confidential for 10 years after completion.” It adds that “logs” — but not “reports” — can be held confidential even longer, forever.
Marathon’s application, permit, and pre-drilling correspondence with DEQ are not “logs.” So according to these sections, they were not confidential until the well was “completed.” And according to part 625 rules, completion was not until the well reached its “permitted depth or the [DEQ] has determined drilling has ceased.” Obviously, D4-11 was not complete on September 20 or 22. Ensign 161 was still there, and working.
So DEQ should have produced the application, permit, and all records other than logs.
Exploring for gas and oil
On October 2 I visited again. A different worker came out to say hello. He said his name was “Trace” and he was the Marathon safety man. Asked how long the rig would be there, he didn’t know and said they were hoping to find gas or oil. He gave the card of his boss in Houston, in case there were further questions.
Trace’s information, Ensign 161’s design and history in frack country, and D4-11’s exploration in the Detroit River group all mean there is a second reason the well information is not confidential. By its title, part 625 only regulates “mineral” wells. Mineral wells include so-called “test wells.” A test well determines the presence of a “mineral, mineral resource, ore, or rock unit,” or obtains data related to “mineral exploration or extraction.” Exploratory test wells look for “an orebody or mineable mineral resource.”
Oil and gas are not “minerals”
Part 625 does not define “mineral.” But in ordinary English minerals are understood to be hard, crystalline, and inorganic. They are extracted by mining.
Gas and oil are extracted by drilling. They are not in DEQ’s list of Michigan minerals. There are no minerals of any kind in Crawford County, according to the list. Anyway, the idea of looking for a mineral in a 4700-foot hole is ridiculous.
Rules under part 625 say if a mineral well encounters oil or gas of any value, the operator has to stop and apply for a separate permit under part 615. This is the part of the law that covers exploration for gas and oil. Part 615 part makes no mention of targeting minerals. It specifically does not apply to “mine and quarry drill and blast holes.”
Part 615, not part 625, was the part under which DEQ granted the “exploratory” permit given for State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1. As an exploration well for gas and oil, D4-11 should have been permitted if at all under part 615, not part 625.
Whats’ the difference? A big one is that confidentiality under part 615 is quite limited. Logs and other data are confidential only for 90 days after completion and then only if the operator requests confidentiality. All other documents, including applications, permits, and pre-drilling correspondence, are routinely made public to me or anyone else at any time. The same is true of logging and production data after the 90 days has passed, or even before 90 days if the operator did not request confidentiality.
Another difference is that part 625 has no rules prohibiting nuisance noise. Part 615 does.
What will D4-11 do to the countryside?
Part 625 rules allow for horizontal mineral wells, though fortunately this well is vertical. The rules also allow for acidizing, perforating, and fracturing.
As mentioned, so far only the first page of Marathon’s application for D4-11 has been made public. Applications typically run to 50 or 100 pages. The full application had to include an environmental impact assessment.
DEQ’s form for that required Marathon to identify distances to nearby water wells and other human-made features, and wetlands, surface waters, and endangered species. Marathon should have stated if high-volume fracking will be done in which case it should have specified the water volumes and a water assessment, and identified at least some of the chemicals. It should have explained how muds, cuttings, pit fluids, and brines would be disposed. It should have given details about any flowline or other facilities on the pad, and explained how it would deal with soil erosion and sedimentation.
Cooley and Ban Michigan Fracking are appealing DEQ’s refusal of D4-11 information except for the logs. Ninety days after completion the logs will be requested too. A monster operation like this is a matter of public concern. People birding, hunting, or snowmobiling in the forest are entitled to know what DEQ knows, including the environmental effects and everything else.
Separately, On October 8 I wrote the Marathon boss asking him to confirm Trace’s statement that D4-11 was looking for gas and oil, and provide a copy of the “application [and] permit.” A week later a PR flack wrote back confirming a permit was issued but refusing to send any documents.
On October 16 we visited the last time. Drilling was complete. The pad was quiet and empty, a gash in the forest with a blowout preventer at the center. No sign displayed the permit number, “conspicuously” or at all.
Ensign 161 had moved a half-mile to the pad of 1-14. It was drilling there in the same Detroit River formation.
The rig is expected back at D4-11 soon, after Marathon runs the numbers. It cost millions to cut the trees, excavate the pad, and bring in the rig. The company won’t want to walk away empty-handed. And next time the bore would not just be vertical. It could be aimed right at Cooley, his nightmare.
Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan volunteers, Ban Michigan Fracking, Metro Detroiters for Bernie, and residents in the nearby community from Hamtramck and Detroit around the Detroit US Ecology hazardous waste facility gathered for a protest October 3. Photo: Jim West.
By LuAnne Kozma
Forty-five activists and community members gathered on October 3, 2015 at the US Ecology hazardous waste facility in Detroit to protest expansion of the facility. They included nearby residents from Detroit and Hamtramck, retirees, nurses, professors, lawyers, students, engineers, photographers, teachers, former and current city workers, a Detroit school board member, and retired postal workers.
Nearby residents concerned about the frack waste expansion and harm to families. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.
The DEQ granted the extension of the public comment period to October 12, but no public hearing has been planned. BMF encourages people to write DEQ and demand a public hearing. The nearby community and all Michigan residents deserve to be heard. Write comments to: Richard Conforti, MDEQ, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail c/o DEQ, P.O. Box 30241, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7741.
US Ecology admits liquid wastes are going into the Detroit sewer system; Michigan DEQ denies it
In an e-mailed response to Free Press inquiries, US Ecology spokesman David Crumrine said there have been no adverse environmental impacts during the 40 years the plant has operated. The plant takes hazardous and non-hazardous, solid and liquid wastes from the automotive, steel, plating and other area industries, as well as retail wastes, he said. Waste is treated to remove or stabilize its hazards as required by state and federal regulations, and then shipped for disposal at offsite landfills. Liquids are treated until they are safe to dispose of via the Detroit wastewater treatment plant. [emphasis added]
This was startling news, and what BMF had speculated for some time. The company’s admission was proof that wastewater from processing hazardous wastes at the site — 40% of which comes from out of state — goes directly into the public water and sewerage system.
Why else bring out-of-state frack wastes for processing to Detroit? When liquid wastes that are too hot radioactively to be disposed of here — DEQ’s Ken Yale has told BMF that wastes are solidified in Detroit first and then shipped for disposal at US Ecology facilities in Idaho — are brought here on their way west, there’s got to be a practical reason. Why wouldn’t Pennsylvania’s frack wastes be sent directly from Pennsylvania to Idaho?
DEQ’s Conforti denied that US Ecology is putting wastes into the Detroit Water and Sewerage System, as quoted in the Detroit News: “Nothing will be released into the water supply — Lake Huron or the Detroit River.”
Other groups, such as the American Human Rights Coalition, based in Dearborn, are also opposed to the expansion. AHRC is raising community awareness and demanding answers to what impact the expansion would have on the Detroit water system.
“In Pennsylvania, drillers are worried about a double whammy — that EPA will follow up its currently proposed zero-discharge rule for municipal treatment plants with another standard blocking them from sending fluids to centralized facilities too.”
Which could pose a problem for facilities like US Ecology.
Speakers at the Protest
Local resident Ronnie Mixon, who also spoke at the protest. Photo: Jim West.
* Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog from Beyond Nuclear, gave some background on how harmful radioactivity is to human health.
* Elena Herrada, a member of the Detroit School Board told the crowd that the school board passed a resolution that the DEQ deny the permit, in light of harm to Detroit school children.
* Dawn DeRose, of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, gave an urgent pitch for volunteers to sign up to get signatures to get the Committee’s ban initiative on the 2016 ballot before the November deadline.
Photo by Jim West.
The signature deadline is in November. The Committee reported in September collecting over 100,000 signatures toward the 252,523 requirement and intends to make it on the ballot. The ballot initiative would ban the processing and storage of frack wastes.
* In December 2014 we reported on the wastes coming from Pennsylvania to US Ecology in Detroit reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection :
Detroit got the worst of it. Over 1,466 tons of “flowback fracturing sand” went to the US Ecology facility at 6520 Georgia Street, near Hamtramck which is the former Dynecol facility. The Marcellus shale frack wastes came from horizontal frack wells in a host of Pennsylvania counties–Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Fayette, Greene, Indiana and Westmoreland–all in 2011 and 2012, but not reported until 2014. The former Dynecol site, which was a hazardous liquid waste processing facility in operation since 1974 “for the Midwest US and Canadian industrial markets,” is now owned by US Ecology, which bought it in 2012, around the same time the frack wastes were brought to Detroit. The company now carries out a number of hazardous operations with radioactive waste, including, according to the DEQ, processing of radioactive frack wastes which are solidified and then shipped to a facility in Idaho. What parts from that “processing” remain in Detroit? We wish we knew. – See more at: http://banmichiganfracking.org/?m=201412#sthash.qJ2D2iNW.dpuf
Marathon Oil applied for a horizontal frack well in Michigan this past July, its first since buying out Canadian frack company Encana’s Michigan frack wells and permits last year and becoming the biggest potential fracker in the state.
Marathon acquired 430,000 acres of state leases from Encana. At the October auction of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) it added 148,000 acres, and 53,000 more this May. That works out to nearly 1000 square miles of leases under state land. The number does not count private leases it may also own.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) granted permit # 61130 unusually quickly, on August 21.
Stake and flag for Marathon’s applied-for State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 in Crawford County. In the background is the blowout preventer for the existing State Beaver Creek 1-23 HD1. Click and then click again to enlarge. Photos by Ellis Boal, 8/15/15.
Till now Marathon has kept its plans under wraps.
The 80-page application is viewable and downloadable here.
Named “State Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1,” the well, located in Crawford County, would descend to a true vertical depth of 4400 feet into what is called the “Detroit River” formation. This is a Devonian-age rock composed of a mixed series of carbonates, evaporites, and sandstones. It is shallower than the record-breaking Utica-Collingwood frack wells drilled in the area by Encana in 2012. Horizontally in the Detroit River formation, the bore would then head south 5255 feet.
It would be an exploratory well. The surface hole is said to be 55 feet south of an earlier Beaver Creek wellhead on the same pad, named “State Beaver Creek 1-23 HD1,” which is now producing.
Encana’s application for the earlier well cited 350,000 barrels of water, or 14.7 million gallons, as the amount it would use for fracking.
Marathon’s surveyor was Dean Farrier. He claims to moonlight as a “biologist.” In January 2013 he prepared an environmental impact assessment for the gathering line for the earlier Beaver Creek well. Asked by the Public Service Commission to demonstrate the efforts and resources he used to write the assessment, he said he “conducted a thorough onsite survey of [the] pipeline route for the presence of protected species” including what he called “Kirkland’s” warblers.
The claim is ridiculous. He didn’t pay attention in the biology classes. They are “Kirtland’s” warblers. At the time of his survey they were actually 1000+ miles south, wintering in the Bahamas.
Marathon’s application says the new well may pass through sour gas (H2S) zones. H2S is lethal. The application includes a 30-page “contingency plan” for dealing with H2S. If there is an uncontrolled release, the extreme recommended solution is to ignite the well via an upwind approach, wearing self-contained breathing apparatus, using a meteor-type flare gun and a safety rope attached to a backup responder, with a quick retreat path available. After ignition, H2S converts to sulfur dioxide which is also highly toxic, according to the contingency plan.
The new well will have a permanent water well. The environmental impact assessment of the application says volume of frack water will be “1.815 gallons.” On a later page the application says “1,815,000 gallons.”
The Waters landfill in Crawford County. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.
Cuttings and muds will be disposed at Waste Management’s nearby Waters landfill.
The chemical constituents of the frack fluid are said to be: water, hydrochloric acid, crystalline silica quartz, tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride, hemicellulase enzyme, propargyl alcohol, methanol, hydrotreated light petroleum distillate, alcohol C12-16 ethoxylated, ammonium chloride, naphthalene, ethanol, heavy aromatic petroleum naphtha, and guar gum.
The public health study of the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute identified three of these as particularly concerning:
Marathon also filed an application for a pooled 800-acre spacing unit. It notes there are numerous critical unknowns with the Detroit River formation in this area. These include reservoir pressure, permeability, porosity, hydrocarbon saturation, and in-situ rock stresses. This well would be the first in the drilling unit.
As it was assembling equipment to start drilling the new well in early September, the company put this sign up on the site. It says:
Photographing or otherwise recording this facility or its operations is prohibited without written consent from the company.
The sign adds “Access to this facility is limited to authorized personnel only.” It refers to the area as “company property.” It claims the right to search the “person, personal property, and vehicle” of any visitor to the premises. It adds that anyone “suspected” of violating a “company policy” may be “referred to law enforcement officials.”
But the state owns the property. Marathon has a permit to drill, but it does not have a permit to exclude visitors. People have the right to walk in the state forest, carry a camera, and use it. The DNR manages it and its policy is:
Michigan’s forests are of incredible value to the people, animals, plants, and other organisms that live in and travel through the State.
On September 22 Ban Michigan Fracking demanded of Hal Fitch, DEQ’s supervisor of wells, that DEQ order the company to paint over the offending language. Fitch refused. He wrote back saying there was “no evidence of any violations of either Part 615 or Part 625“, the laws he administers.
The Graham Institute completed its intensive two-year report this month on high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in Michigan. One thing in the executive summary that it got right was a criticism of the DEQ’s current policy involving the public and well permitting. It said the policy “hinders transparency about HVHF operations in the state.” Fitch’s response proves the point.
The next day BMF made the same demand of DNR. DNR promptly sent staff to the pad and told the foreman to take down the sign.
The threatening bullying sign had been up, unchallenged, for three weeks.
contain additional requirements when completing a well using high volume hydraulic fracturing [HVHF] by modifying Rule 201 and adding Part 14 High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing. The revised administrative rules also contained other minor updates related to definitions, injection, and spacing issues.
Since horizontal fracking came to Michigan in 2010, some environmental groups have put all effort into improving sloppy practices, and getting tighter DEQ fracking regulation.
The new rules show the futility of those efforts. If anything, they facilitate more fracking than the old rules. Protection of public health, the environment, forests, water resources, air, climate, and our communities is still at stake.
The technical details are below.
“Construction of part”
The overall show-stopper is the legislature’s statutory finding at MCL 324.61502. This law will remain in place unless the ballot initiative campaign of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan succeeds in 2016. Innocuously titled “construction of part” – meaning “how the DEQ is to construe part 615 [the state oil-gas law]” – the finding ends with these words:
It is accordingly the declared policy of the state to protect the interests of its citizens and landowners from unwarranted waste of gas and oil and to foster the development of the industry along the most favorable conditions and with a view to the ultimate recovery of the maximum production of these natural products. To that end, this part is to be construed liberally to give effect to sound policies of conservation and the prevention of waste and exploitation.
Binding on judges, juries, and DEQ regulators, this special-interest provision has been on the books since 1939. Most government agencies treat their regulated industries neutrally. Not so with DEQ and oil-gas. “Fostering” the industry means fostering oil-gas profits. “Maximizing” oil-gas production means maximizing Michigan’s contribution to fossil fuel-driven global warming.
Thus “construction of part” declares a vision statement or ideology, that animates both the old DEQ rules and the new DEQ rules.
The citizen-led ballot initiative will ban horizontal fracking and acidizing in the state, and render the HVHF rules obsolete.
Just as importantly, it will eliminate the oil-gas industry’s special-interest protection. Instead of fostering the industry and maximizing production, the new “construction of part” will say:
It is accordingly the declared policy of the state to protect the interests of its people and environment during gas and oil development. This part is to be construed liberally to give effect to sound policies of conservation and to protect water resources, land, air, climate, human health, and the natural environment.
Terminology and a caveat
Terminology: “Part 615” noted above refers to the oil-gas “part” of Michigan’s overall environmental law known as “Natural Resources and Environmental Protection act” (NREPA), found at MCL 324.101 et seq. Part 327, noted below, is also in NREPA.
The DEQ rules are also divided into “parts,” numbered part 1 through part 14. They are in a different number sequence than the parts of NREPA. Confusingly, the two sets of “parts” have no relation to each other.
The caveat: Many of the new rules refer to “high volume hydraulic fracturing” (HVHF), defined as fracking which uses a total volume of more than 100,000 gallons of primary carrier fluid. HVHF usually occurs in wellbores which are horizontal, but not always. The ballot initiative of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan by contrast seeks to ban fracking and acidizing in horizontal wellbores, without tying it to a specific volume of primary carrier fluid.
Details on the new rules
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: On April 27 the Detroit News editorialized against signing the ballot initiative, asserting that the new rules “control methane emissions.” They do not. New rule 1404(1)(c) provides only for testing for methane (and six other chemicals) in water wells which are near HVHF wells. No tests are done for fugitive methane (methane which escapes into the air). Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas, and a potent GHG. Other new rules say nothing and do nothing about Michigan’s contribution to global warming. Comments by Ban Michigan Fracking at last summer’s hearings made particular note that the prohibition of “waste” in MCL 324.61501(q)(ii)(B) does not include air or climate as protected values, and that DEQ’s historic permitting practice has been to monitor only non-GHG emissions.
This frack well fragmented a state forest in Antrim County, 2011, (State Mancelona 1-28 HD1). Photo by LuAnne Kozma.
Cumulative impacts and habitat fragmentation: The new rules say nothing about proliferation and cumulative impacts of wells. The DNR leases oil-gas rights and DEQ permits oil-gas wells separately with no coordination between them. Wells are often located near rivers and streams. In basins with a high density of operations, numerous wellpads in the same watershed compound cumulative impacts of above-ground wellheads, compressors, pipelines, access roads, and associated industry.
Wastewater, radioactivity: The new rules have no requirement for geochemical analysis of flowback and produced water, particularly from underground radioactive shale rock typically associated with shale gas.
Compulsory pooling of surface owners can now be done after drilling and fracking is done: Rule 301(1)(d) now allows a permit to be issued and the well drilled on a unit with fractures extending under unleased land — land the fracker does not have the rights to — prior to a hearing being held to see if a dominant leaseholder can force other owners into a pool. The theory under MCL 324.61513(4) is that the leaseholder should not be deprived of a fair share of oil or gas in the pool. Pooling orders are typically justified by the “construction of part” language that requires the state to foster “maximum production” (language which will be eliminated if the ballot initiative succeeds). See this example of a case of compulsory pooling where DEQ relied on “construction of part” to force owners into a drilling unit. The assumption of compulsory pooling is that everyone wants to produce oil or gas from his/her land to the max. If ever accurate historically, the assumption is not uniformly true today. Cosmetically, the new rules also change the term “compulsory pooling” to “statutory pooling,” hiding the fact that landowners are forced into drilling units against their will.
Seismic impacts: The new rules have a single passing reference to seismic activity. It is in rule 1202(3)(a), the procedure for petitioning to establish secondary recovery operations. In April, the US Geological Survey linked oil-gas activities to induced earthquakes. The new rules require no seismic precautions.
Confidentiality: Rule 416(3) requires operators on request of the DEQ to give it fracking, acidizing, and other well records. But if an operator asks DEQ to hold well data and samples confidential (excepting data on spills, leaks, and chemicals used), DEQ will do so until 90 days after drilling is completed. Confidentiality advances no environmental principle or policy.
Spacing and blowouts: When a fracker seeks a special spacing order, rule 303(2) no longer requires that DEQ make sure that the distance between wells prevents interference. Interference can result in a blowout at an adjacent well. DEQ is now content to grant a permit to a well where a blowout could happen.
Conformance bonds: Bonds for single wells range between $10k and $30k depending on depth according to rule 212, but the state auditor general found in 2013 the average cost to plug one is $50k+.
Hearings on well permits: Rule 201(4) provides for no notice to nearby landowners of fracker applications for well permits, and no hearings or appeals if a permit is granted.
One of the many injection wells used to dispose of horizontal frack wastes in Michigan, the Slowinski injection well in Kalkaska County. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.
Injection wells: There is no change in rule 102(x), the definition of “injection well.” The rule’s definition includes disposal wells and wells used to inject water “for the purpose of increasing the ultimate recovery of hydrocarbons from a reservoir.” A reservoir is any gas-bearing formation, even if it is solid rock. Injecting to increase recovery is just what frack wells do in the Utica-Collingwood, A-1 carbonate, and other gas-bearing formations. By nature, frack wells are permanent disposal wells of half their own injectate. In 2014 our court of appeals interpreted the rule definition to refer to any well used to increase recovery of hydrocarbons from a reservoir which was already producing before water was injected. Every well in the Utica-Collingwood and A-1 carbonate, and practically every other frack well in the state today, fits that interpretation. Yet DEQ refuses to treat them under the rules for injection wells. Those rules include rule 804 which uses a formula to limit the amount of injection pressure.
HVHF: The new rules have an amended part 2 and a new part 14 to cover high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). HVHF is defined in rule 1401(h) as fracking which uses a total volume of more than 100,000 gallons of primary carrier fluid.
Trade secrets and HVHF: Under rule 201(2)(c), anticipated chemicals in the injectate, and their “chemical abstracts service” (CAS) numbers, must be identified in advance. Under rule 1406(1)(c), the chemicals and CAS numbers actually used have to be listed with FracFocus 30 days after completion. (FracFocus does not operate under a public mandate or verify information submitted to it.) But both requirements have an exception if the fracker simply makes a claim for protection under Michigan’s trade secrets statute, MCL 445.1901 et seq. The trade secrets law does not protect the public from frackers. It protects frackers from each other. Neither the trade secrets law nor the new rules provide a mechanism for a citizen to challenge a fracker’s claim of secrecy.
Students protest in Mt. Pleasant, 2012. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.
Baseline water testing and HVHF: Rule 1404 requires the permit holder to do pre-drilling sampling of water from potable wells near the surface hole, test the samples at a lab for seven chemicals, and give a copy of the lab results to the landowner. No testing for the hundreds of other chemicals identified in frack operations is required. And chemicals in secret mixtures can’t be tested for at all. Sampling in the vicinity of the horizontal laterals, sampling of water levels and flows, sampling of surface waters, splitting samples so the landowner can have half, and doing post-drilling sampling are not required. Nor is sampling required for water wells near gas wells which are not HVHF.
Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool and HVHF: Rule 1402 has provisions for protection of water withdrawn for fracking. The rule requires screening by Michigan’s water withdrawal assessment tool (WWAT), adopted in 2008 by the legislature in MCL 324.32701 et seq (or NREPA part 327). If a fracker’s withdrawal request fails WWAT screening, it may request a site-specific review. DEQ would then take a closer look and decide whether to approve withdrawal. In the past, DEQ has routinely approved permits even when the WWAT test “fails.” WWAT screening has problems. It estimates surface water flows from just 147 gauged stream segments around the state. The gauges tend to be on medium- and large-sized streams, not sensitive headwaters. WWAT has not been updated since 2008. It was developed to deal with long-term withdrawals like agricultural irrigation, not the short-term intensive withdrawals required for fracking. WWAT cannot assess the potential impacts on habitat, wildlife, and nearby waters receiving site runoff. It does not account for water withdrawal impacts to wetlands and lakes. It cannot measure potential changes in surface runoff patterns due to the clearing of land and road construction. It overestimates stream flow (and so underestimates adverse effects). Academics have criticized it.
Use of WWAT and HVHF: Even were WWAT a valid screening device, DEQ misuses it. Two big frack wells were permitted in 2011, State Excelsior 1-13 HD1 and State Excelsior 1-25 HD1. Both wells failed WWAT screening according to the linked DEQ paperwork for the wells. That triggered a site-specific review by DNR water specialist David Deyoung. Deyoung gave the go-ahead and permits were granted. But according to pages 84-87 and 108-113 respectively of the paperwork, he gave no reasoning, did not consider the stream or river flow data of affected stream reaches, and did not even state he visited the sites.
To protect Michigan from harm, we must use the Precautionary Principle and do no harm. Rules by which to frack, only lead us down the road to more and increased fracking across the state.
On May 5, twelve members of the Michigan House introduced a pipeline secrecy bill, HB 4540. The bill would amend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA law.
Before-and-after pictures of clearing for the pipeline along King Road, taken by neighbor Gary Cooley. Cooley found flattened Kirtland’s warblers in excavated dirt on the day and near the location of the third picture. Click and then click again to enlarge.
It would allow public agencies to withhold “critical energy infrastructure” information — defined as “engineering … or detailed design information” which “relates details about the production, generation, transportation, transmission, or distribution of fuel or energy” of “existing and proposed” infrastructure “relating to crude oil, petroleum, electricity, or natural gas.”
The definition is limited to information that is “more than the general location,” and that “could be useful to a person in planning an attack” on systems and assets, the incapacity of which “would negatively affect public security, economic security, health, safety….”
In the future as wind and solar begin to take hold in the state, central production and transmission facilities related to them would seem to be included too.
(The bill also has provisions related to cybersecurity generally, not limited to oil, gas and electricity. They have not sparked widespread controversy.)
If the bill were amended to exclude production, the primary agency affected by it would be the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) which regulates transmission of oil, petroleum, electricity, and gas.
What follows is an object lesson, where secrecy of gas pipelines proved disastrous for Michigan forests and wildlife.
To build a gas line, a company has to give MPSC a plat showing the line’s dimensions, character, compression stations, control valves, and connections. Similar details are required for oil, petroleum, or electric lines.
In January 2013 deep-shale fracker Encana Oil & Gas (USA) applied for and MPSC permitted gathering lines for two horizontal wells. The lines were to connect the wells to a transmission line crossing southern Crawford and Kalkaska Counties.
This is Kirtland’s warbler territory. Kirtlands are federally endangered birds. If you kill one you pay a fine or go to jail or both.
Encana asked MPSC to process the applications “ex parte” — which means secretly. MPSC obliged. Neighbors near the lines had no chance to object. Twenty days later MPSC granted the applications in boilerplate decisions. Only then did the existence of the proposed lines became public.
Neighbors John Buggs, Dan Bonamie, and Gary Cooley live in inholdings of the state forest which the Crawford County line traverses. The line goes along King Road, what was once a stately woodland two-track. They and their neighbors walk, hunt, and bird throughout the area.
Encana had submitted environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to MPSC. But the EIAs were slopwork, supposedly authored by Encana’s surveyor but unsigned. His only enviro credential is a certificate to teach high school biology. The EIAs made no mention of the nearby Kirtland nesting sites, and did not even claim to investigate environmental impacts in the forest alongside the pipeline easements.
MPSC didn’t read the EIAs, saying that wasn’t its job. Buggs and Bonamie tried to intervene and ask for reconsideration, but the agency refused, holding they lacked standing.
In the court
The two appealed to the court of appeals, where Encana argued again they lacked standing.
Meanwhile the company spent $2 million and built the lines, flattening two Kirtland’s warblers in the process, according to witness Cooley’s affidavits. Cooley reported the find to two Encana contractor employees who refused to even look at the dead birds or report the incident to DNR as required.
Cooley also took before-and-after pictures of the one line which goes by his place. DNR had allowed easement widths of 35 feet, but the company used 53 feet including an 8-foot strip of roadside trees along King Road outside the easement boundary.
The court was shocked by Encana’s standing argument. It told the company that dismissing the appeal “may result in a miscarriage of justice.” It added environmental review is the job of every agency, under longstanding Michigan precedent. It reversed the MPSC permits as “unlawful,” and remanded to the agency.
Meanwhile Encana had sold the lines to DTE Michigan and the wells to Marathon Oil.
Back at MPSC
DTE then told MPSC it should now read the EIAs and re-affirm the permits summarily with no hearing.
Getting some backbone for a change, MPSC refused. The EIAs were “mere guesswork,” it ruled. Then it gave DTE till August to try to show the “efforts [it] made and resources [it] used” to produce the EIAs.
MPSC did not ask DTE to submit new EIAs by someone who does have credentials. Any new EIA — after Encana already gouged the forest — would be untimely by 2½ years and objectionable.
Recognizing the “interest” the case has generated, MPSC issued a press release and will allow public comment for 30 days after DTE’s submission in August.
Pleadings and decisions in the case are at this link. The technical details provided by Encana when it applied for the lines is in items 1 and 2 of the link. The details include pipe specs and diameters, wall thickness, minimum yield, joint information, coating information, fitting information, maximum and normal pressures, max/min/expected operating temperatures, and other data.
In particular the details showed the line diameters would be 6.625 inches (commonly referred to as 6-inch).
This is the kind of detail which MPSC would be privileged to withhold under HB 4540. Are such details important to Buggs’s and Bonamie’s case?
This is where it gets interesting.
After the court decision, DTE did not remove the lines. It didn’t even stop operating them. Today it is making money off them. But the law provides for fines and a year of prison for corporate officers who have or operate a line without a permit. Here we have two lines and no permits.
Buggs and Bonamie began to question DNR about the 35-foot easements over which the lines run. The width of the easement determines how wide a forest swath can be excavated and cleared for a line. DNR procedure, in effect since 2005, recommends widths of 20 feet or 30 feet.
DNR land use forester Jerry Grieve handled Encana’s application for one of the two lines. He questioned superiors about the width in the fall of 2012. Encana had requested 50 feet for that line. Grieve wrote:
Note: This requested easement is for 50′ not the normal 20′. This is because of the kind of pipeline being put down…. [D]iscussions about the width … are still on going in the Department. A final determination of width will be made by the time the easement is issued in Lansing.
FOIA information shows that in the case of this line, DNR did comply with the normal procedure — in writing — and allowed just 20 feet. But when Encana started excavating and clearing it went out 35 feet. DNR’s reaction: It just winked. In the case of the other line, the written permission stated 35 feet.
No FOIA notes of the DNR decisions show why it deviated from “normal” 20 feet.
But there are clues suggesting possible explanations. One is that the company overstated the line diameters. It told MPSC they would be 6 inches and DNR they would be 8 inches. Companies are supposed to be straight with public authorities. But neither MPSC or DNR have demanded an explanation of the contradiction. DNR fell for it and may have used the exaggerated diameters as an excuse for too-wide easements.
The second clue may be that something in the technical specs — perhaps the steel construction material or the expected pressure — motivated the deviation.
If this information caused DNR to violate its longstanding “normal” procedure, then the public is entitled to know. The width issue goes to the core of the DNR’s mission. Its job is to protect state forests from fragmentation, not violate rules secretly just because a powerful company wants it to.
But it is exactly the kind of data which MPSC and DNR could withhold under HB 4540, by simply declaring terrorists might use it.
In May, Buggs and Bonamie sued DNR in the court of claims to vacate the easements and restore the slashed forest. DNR has not yet responded.
Regardless how the new suit turns out, HB 4540 will allow MPSC and DNR to continue hiding information, and eating out of the hands of the frackers.
Adrian Today reported on May 10 that a search of campaign finance records shows that all the bill’s 12 sponsors received financial support from the energy industry in 2014.
The litigations are supported by Ban Michigan Fracking.
Jim Williams, Public Policy Polling, 919-985-5380 Jim.Williams@PublicPolicyPolling.com
New poll of Michigan voters shows a strong majority supports a statewide ban on fracking and frack wastes as ballot initiative signature-gathering campaign begins May 22
CHARLEVOIX, MICH. – In results from a new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) released today by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, Michigan voters indicate strong support and would vote yes for the Committee’s statewide ballot proposal ban on fracking and frack wastes.
The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a citizen-led ballot initiative group seeking to ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing and frack wastes, kicks off its campaign this week. Volunteer circulators begin collecting signatures starting Friday, May 22, 2015 for a six-month period to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
The telephone poll reached 855 Michigan voters between May 15 and 18, 2015.
“As we begin collecting signatures this weekend, we know that our fellow Michigan residents are with us on a statewide ban. They don’t want fracking and frack wastes to destroy our beautiful state or harm our health as the frack industry has in other states. We are excited to work together to make a change in Michigan law and bring this proposal to the voters. Everyone who supports the ban should get involved right away and donate to, volunteer for and endorse the campaign,” said LuAnne Kozma, the Committee’s campaign director.
According to the poll, a strong majority of fifty-five percent (55%) of respondents said if the election were today, they would support the Committee’s ballot proposal to ban fracking and frack wastes statewide, change the current law that requires the State to foster the gas and oil industry and put in its place a requirement that human health and the environment be protected during oil and gas development, and give Michigan residents the right to sue if the fracking industry violates the ban. Only 32% oppose the measure, and 12% are not sure.
Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the respondents said they support changing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s directive that currently requires the State to foster the oil and gas industry and maximize oil and gas production, to focus more on protecting Michigan’s environment and public health during oil and gas development, which is a key part of the Committee’s ballot proposal language. Only 28% oppose changing it.
An overwhelming majority, sixty-four percent (64%) of those polled, support a ban on frack wastes being disposed of in Michigan, including frack wastes produced in other states, after hearing that currently frack wastes, including radioactive drill cuttings, muds and sludges, and millions of gallons of fluids containing toxic chemicals, are disposed of in Michigan landfills, injection wells and at Michigan gas drilling sites.
After learning that Vermont banned fracking and New York banned fracking based on concerns about health impacts, and that other states that are heavily fracked such as Colorado and Pennsylvania have hundreds of wells in a single county with documented health impacts, fifty-nine (59%) responded that fracking and frack wastes should be banned in Michigan before the industry creates health problems for Michigan residents.
“These results clearly show that Michigan voters have major concerns about fracking and frack waste harming Michigan’s environment and damaging their health,” said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at Public Policy Polling.
“Only a ban can protect us from the significant harms of fracking,” said Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and on the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan steering committee. “The poll shows that a clear majority, sixty-nine percent (69%), of Michigan residents, dependent as we are on groundwater wells and the Great Lakes for our drinking water, has serious concerns about the risk of water contamination from the frack industry. It is urgent that we move to alternative forms of energy to protect future generations.”
The margin of error is +/- 3.4%.
The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is looking for more volunteers to circulate petitions, donors, and endorsers for the campaign which begins May 22, 2015 for a six-month period. The following Kick Off events are planned to start off the Memorial Day weekend. See http://LetsBanFracking.org
Kick Off Events:
For full list, see www.letsbanfracking.org
Saturday, May 23, 9:00 a.m.
Scottish Highland festival, downtown Alma
Friday, May 22, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Outside Espresso Royale
214 S. Main St.
Saturday, May 23, 9:00 a.m. to noon
Ann Arbor Farmers Market
315 Detroit St.
Saturday, May 23, 1:00 p.m.
March Against Monsanto
Liberty Plaza, Corner of Liberty and Division
Saturday, May 23, 9:00 a.m. to noon
Boyne City Farmers Market, Veterans Park, Lake Street
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. to noon
Chelsea Farmers Market
Downtown on 222 S. Main St, Chelsea
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. to noon
Meet between Sheds 2 and 3
Friday, May 22, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Outside Harmony Brew
1551 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Saturday, May 23, @ 2:00 p.m.
March Against Monsanto, Ah Nab Awen Park
Training for Circulators @ 1:30 and 3:00
Saturday, May 23, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Muskegon Farmers Market
242 W Western Ave, Muskegon, MI 49440
OTSEGO (ALLEGAN COUNTY)
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. to noon
City of Otsego Farmers Market
112 Kalamazoo St/M-89, Otsego, MI 49078
Friday, May 22, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Outside Roast and Toast Café
309 E Lake St Petoskey, MI 49770
Friday, May 22, 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Intersection of 4th and Waters Street, Rochester
Saturday, May 23, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Heritage Fest, Rochester Municipal Park
400 Sixth Street, Rochester
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. to noon
South Haven Farm Market
Behind the South Haven Library, in the park near pavilion
Friday, May 22, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Horizon Books, downstairs
243 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684
Saturday, May 23, 9:00 a.m. to noon
Ypsilanti Depot Town Farmers Market
100 Rice St., Ypsilanti
The Graham Institute allows only 30 days — until March 20 — for the public to read and comment on the 277-page report.
Unlike the Institute’s technical reports issued in September 2013, this draft does tip its hat to the ballot initiative of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, with footnotes to the website, http://letsbanfracking.org . And a page of the “Public Participation” chapter has a table purporting to show a ban’s strengths and weaknesses.
Lamentably, it gets them all wrong.
For example, a weakness of a ban is said to be that it “does not involve the public in the decision making process” — a ludicrous proposition given that a ban by ballot initiative–which the report acknowledges is in the works–would be voted on by millions of people after collection of signatures of hundreds of thousands.
Another weakness of a ban (again, the general concept of a ban) is said to be that the state may be subject to legal action as a result of taking of property. The table does not notice that a ban on horizontal fracking is not a total taking. The initiative, for example, will not affect the vertical fracking which Michigan has conducted for decades, a fact which will weaken or decimate any legal taking claim. Developers have lost the last two taking claims advanced to Michigan appellate courts, following the loss of nearly every taking claim by oil-gas developers across the US nationally in recent years.
The Graham table has no mention of the legacy costs to Michigan taxpayers for the ongoing costs of environmental contamination. Which will be considerable if years and years of Michigan frack wastes and frack wastes from other states accumulate here in landfills, injection wells, wastewater treatment plants and other facilities across the state.
Finally, no notice is given to a signal strength of the Committee’s initiative, that it will reverse the state’s policy in effect since 1939, of requiring judges, juries, and DEQ regulators to interpret the law so as to “foster” the oil-gas industry “favorably” and “maximize” oil-gas production. The current policy in effect means the DEQ has to work to maximize oil-gas profits, and maximize Michigan’s oil-gas contribution to global warming. The initiative will substitute a requirement that DEQ regulators prioritize water and human health.
The latest Pew poll, after last fall’s elections, showed: “There was a particularly dramatic change of views in the Midwest where increased use of fracking is now opposed by a 47% to 39% margin compared with the majority who favored its use in 2013.”